Print on Demand


Conventional Publishing

One of the greatest financial challenges a publisher faces is the need to pay for the set-up and printing of a batch of books.

Historically, printing presses have been tailored to creating large runs of books.

Clearly, for a publisher, the print run costs result in money invested and tied up for some time.  All manufacturers face this issue with stocks,  however, custom and practice in the book trade has resulted in books being placed with bookshops on the basis of “sale or return”. 

A publisher often agrees to take back any unsold (even damaged) copies in return for the bookshop displaying the book for sale.  So, even when the publisher makes a sale it could be cancelled out by having to repay the bookshop thereby absorbing the bookshop’s commercial risk as well.

A pretty poor situation.  But what happens to the returns?

As they are no longer new, it can be difficult to send them to other conventional retailers (even if they wanted to take them), so the publisher may choose either to sell at a huge discount to a company which takes such books, or simply destroy the books.

It would seem that selling the books for any sum would be a good idea, but when these same books appear at huge discounts on major Internet “markets” associates’ sites they undermine future full-price sales.

Print on Demand

This system relies on new technology which enables a printshop to produce single copies of books (hardback or paperback). 

Although the price per copy is very much higher than a conventional offset process, the outstanding turn-round time for a single copy (1  to 5 days) means that there is no need for major online retailers to keep stock.  So the higher price can be offset against the waste from book returns.

No stocks can also mean no returns!

The leading companies offering POD services also have very close working relationships with major booksellers in the UK and USA.   In 2009 one company set up a trial system whereby a printing machine was installed in the central London retail store of a major bookseller so that customers can walk in and print on demand - on the spot!

The book never needs to be “out of print”.

The modern solution to a long-standing problem

There is an excellent book explaining print on demand publishing by Morris Rosenthal

ISBN 0-9723801-3-2